Tuesday, December 01, 2015

ending the derangement of public education...

Some folks simply seem to go crazy, but the derangement of public education in the US has been purposeful and near complete. In 2001, we launched my Wisdom of the Hands program and I started this blog in 2006. Originally, I was concerned that shop classes were being cut right and left from American schools. It was claimed at the time by too many ignoramuses to count that we were no longer a manufacturing nation and would buy all our stuff from China, so would no longer need skills. As a craftsman I had observed the process for years, as my own work became devalued in comparison to cheaply made, and readily available imports.

But the loss of shop classes was a symptom, not a cause, and if people in the US had a grasp of the relationship between hands and mind... that they form an essential partnership in learning, wood shops, music, laboratory science and the arts would have never been threatened by such foolishness, and we would have continued to have the best education in the world. Had they not disembodied learning we would not have abandoned so much. Now, we struggle to compete.

NPR is running a series on Morning Edition this week to focus on American Manufacturing... where the jobs are, who's making what, and how we can find workers to fill the jobs that are available as baby boomers retire. It seems that education has been off track for so long that it's hard to get back. All schools and all citizens should be involved in the effort to restore sanity to education.

In the meantime, I try to do more here in this blog than rant at the stupidity of educational policy makers. We must allow children to become engineers of their own lives, instead of engineering every little detail for them. And we can start with a better understanding of early childhood development to restore what we have lost.

Mademoiselle Albertine Necker de Saussure wrote the following in the early 1800's with regards to the development of the child.
"It is a matter of surprise to some, that children are satisfied with the rudest imitations. They are looked down upon for their want of feeling for art, while they should rather be admired for the force of imagination which renders such illusion possible. Mold a lump of wax into a figure or cut one out of paper, and, provided it has something like legs and arms and a rounded piece for a head, it will be a man in the eyes of the child. This man will last for weeks; the loss of a limb or two will make no difference; and he will fill every part you choose to make him play. The child does not see the imperfect copy, but only the model in his own mind. The wax figure is to him only a symbol on which he does not dwell. No matter though the symbol be ill chosen and insignificant; the young spirit penetrates the veil, arrives at the thing itself, and contemplates it in its true aspect. Too exact imitations of things undergo the fate of the things themselves, of which the child soon tires. He admires them, is delighted with them, but his imagination is impeded by the exactness of their forms, which represent one thing only; and how is he to be contented with one amusement? A toy soldier fully equipped is only a soldier; it can not represent his father or any other personage. It would seem as if the young mind felt its originality more strongly when, under the inspiration of the moment, it puts all things in requisition, and sees, in everything around, the instruments of its pleasure. A stool turned over is a boat, a carriage; set on its legs it becomes a horse or a table; a bandbox becomes a house, a cupboard, a wagon—anything. You should enter into his ideas, and, even before the time for useful toys, should provide the child with the means of constructing for himself, rather than with things ready made.
I think that if you have a mind through which to observe children on your own,  you will arrive at the conclusion that children must be equipped with tools and be given the necessary instruction to use them safely. The reason that young minds can put things together in such meaningful ways as de Saussure describes, is that the children are thereby engaged in a process of discovery. That sense of discovery brings the child to a heightened state of engagement (excitement) that is rarely found in classroom learning.

On another subject, Friends of Bill Coperthwaite have set up a website in his memory. Insearchofsimplicity.net  You may recall my own visit with Bill that I described here and here and elsewhere in the blog–places you can find using the search block at upper left. Type in Coperthwaite and press enter. Thanks Randall for the link.

Make, fix, create, and assist others in learning likewise.

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